Separable and inseparable phrasal verbs

Inseparable phrasal verbs without an object include wake up, end up. get up. come round. Inseparable phrasal verbs with an object include ask for, look for, look after, come up with. Separable phrasal verbs include give away, give back, call back, put away, pick up, turn on, send back, pay back.

Inseparable phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs consist of a verb and a particle. Give back = give (verb) + back (particle).

These cannot be separated if the verb is inseparable. Inseparable phrasal verbs can be two types: without an object and with an object.

Example: I wake up at 8 am every morning. (without an object) Incorrect: I wake at 8 am up

The TV cameras zoomed in on the winner’s face. (with an object) Incorrect: The TV cameras zoomed the winner’s face in on.

Without an object

With an object

Separable phrasal verbs

Separable phrasal verbs word order with nouns. Example: Give my book back. Give back my book. Both are possible. But with pronouns it is obligatory to separate. Example: Give it back.

Phrasal verbs consist of a verb and a particle. Give back = give (verb) + back (particle).

These can be separated if the verb is separable. Example: Give my pen back. Note: Give back my pen is also correct. We are free to decide which sentence we prefer.

If we use a pronoun instead of my pen only Give it back is correct. We can’t say Give back it.

Try this short quiz to check if you have understood the concept.

Here is a list of some separable and inseparable phrasal verbs at B1+ level.

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